Past Exhibition


The Shiseido Gallery will host a solo exhibition of Miwa Yanagi, an artist who has been highly acclaimed both within Japan and internationally for her photographic works that are processed under computer graphics. This exhibition will feature Yanagi's "Granddaughters," the newest video installation work that follows her earlier "Grandmothers" series.

The early works from the "Elevator Girl" series (1993) had a performance nature, for in these works, Yanagi featured real women dressed up as elevator girls (young female employees of department stores who attend elevators are referred to as "elevator girls" in Japan). Eventually, Yanagi shifted her process to employing computer graphics and began creating unrealistic images based on real scenery. In these works we see bored, expressionless elevator girls in uniforms, gathered in department stores and in shopping arcades. The milieu in which these girls stand appear to extend endlessly and this owes to the unique perspective that Yanagi incorporates. The vanity and languor that exist behind the sensual charms of commercial facilities are expressed in these works, simultaneously bringing into light the oppression and isolation women feel in such environments, as if they have been deprived of their identities and have been reduced to mere parts of the scenery.

From 2000, Yanagi departed from this inanimate style, devoid of human identities, and began her new series "My Grandmothers." In this series, Yanagi shows a variety of women in their old ages. While in the "Elevator Girl" series, the artist herself had complete control over the scenery and subjects, in the "Grandmothers" series, she interviews young women and asks them to imagine their future, fifty to sixty years from now. When the model and Yanagi come to a satisfying future image, the work is completed as an "ideal grandmother" image. The outcome is a variety of grandma images. One woman rides in the buddy seat of a Harley Davidson driven by a young man and crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, while another is a president of a theme park, sitting back haughtily in her office chair, clad in an animal costume. A grandmother patron roots for her favorite stand-up comedian, a granny super-model strikes a pose on a catwalk of gravestones, and another takes the responsibility of seeing off a dying soul. We, especially women, are prone to take aging as something negative, but the grandmothers who are created by Yanagi and the young models present a positive view of the process of aging. Each figure aspires to an eternal continuation of freedom, rather than waiting for their imminent death, and viewers can feel that these women fantasize life after retirement.

Yanagi comments on her theme of "grandmothers" as follows:
"We have the least control when it comes to choosing our own parents. In my works I take something humans cannot decide for themselves. For example, I try to create my own mother figure by myself. It's like I'm creating my own parents. In a sense, the grandmothers in my works guide both myself and the model, she is my imaginary grandmother, somebody who is blood-related."

It is clear that Yanagi pours her affection and affinity towards the "grandmothers" who appear in these works. In this new "Granddaughters" work, which is in line with this idea, many "grandmothers" speak of their own grandmothers. They attempt to bring back and share with us, the images of their grandmothers who have lived on in their memories.

Miwa Yanagi Profile

Miwa Yanagi was born in Kobe in 1967 and currently resides in Kyoto. Yanagi first achieved recognition with her "Elevator Girl" series, which she began in the early 1990s. Since, she has been featured in numerous international exhibitions such as the Taipei Biennale (1998), "Vision of the Body: Fashion or Invisible Corset" (1999, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo), "Elysian Fields" (2000, The Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou), Yokohama Triennale (2001), and has also received the VOCA Prize in 1999. She is currently one of the leading artists in the Japanese contemporary art scene.

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